Where the money goes: a story told in pictures

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I’ve got an article in this week’s magazine about how to spend less money. Unfortunately, the graphic that went along with it didn’t make it online. The art department folks—designer Patricia Hwang and photo editor Bill Carwin—did a great job, so now, exclusively for readers of the Curious Capitalist, here it is:

SaveGraphicIf you click on the picture, it should open up larger in a new window.

The data we used can, for the most part, be found here. Though some of the more granular numbers came from a longer document that the BLS folks had to send me by e-mail. There’s also a tricky omission. For homeowners, interest paid on a mortgage is counted as an expense, but payments on principal aren’t. Principal payments are in a different set of household accounts—the feeling is that’s more about investing than it is spending. The $16,920 that the average family spends on housing really only represents money which you’re not going to get back when you move.

As I pointed out in the accompanying story, 12% of the average household’s spending goes toward food, 18% for transportation and 34% for housing (again, excluding mortgage principal payments). My deep conclusion is that if you want to spend less, you probably need to do more than cut back on Starbucks. Other insights can be found here.